Since the coronavirus pandemic took a hold of our economy, we have seen a significant rise in unemployment and a simultaneous decrease in available jobs. Although many companies in the technology and e-commerce sectors seem to be thriving at this time, tech job postings have been down by over a third. This leaves emerging tech talent in a job market that is more competitive than ever, and as companies are in a position to be more selective, it is important to demonstrate the value you can add to an organization. But what if you don’t have much of a track record? Don’t fear – there are still many things you can do.
Freelancing is a great way to develop your portfolio while also getting paid for it.
For people who are focused on the business side of tech – you may find interesting projects on the independent consultant marketplace, Catalant. There are also many other freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.com that are frequented by writers, programmers, marketers, and creatives, and while people do succeed in winning clients on these platforms, these are not the places we suggest someone to go to when starting out. One of the main reasons is that bidding for projects is extremely competitive, resulting in a race to the bottom in your compensation.
Instead, we recommend that you begin with your own network. Let your family, friends, acquaintances, LinkedIn and Slack connections, former colleagues, and classmates know that you are open for business. The chances are that someone in your network has a project that fits your skill set.
Many individuals and organizations have had to adjust to the “new normal” resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, and this often means emphasizing more activity online. E-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Etsy are attracting small businesses in droves and many of these business could use some digital expertise as they transition online. Whether you are a digital marketer, a web designer, or an e-commerce strategist, now is the time to leverage your network to position yourself favorably in this quickly changing landscape.
Pro Bono Work for Nonprofits
Not all organizations and projects are profit-seeking, but donating your time and expertise for them can allow you to develop marketable experience while contributing to a positive societal cause. Non-profit or social impact job boards such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch may present interesting opportunities. Are you a software engineer? Ovio lists a multitude of open source projects you can contribute to. You can also reach out to people in nonprofits directly through e-mail or LinkedIn and offer ways you could contribute.
According to Wikipedia, a Hackathon “is a design sprint-like event; often, in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, domain experts, and others collaborate intensively on software projects.” The goal of the event is to come up with a solution – typically a software solution – to a given problem, and to learn and develop yourself with other people throughout the process.
Hackathons not only give you the experience of developing new solutions that can be added to your resume/portfolio – they also are an excellent way to learn from others, discover new interests, and form new connections. Another bonus is that while the country has been quarantining, hackathons have continued to go on online. So, start Googling for upcoming hackathons and begin participating!
For people in school or who have graduated relatively recently, an internship is a great way to build up the “experience” section of your resume, often with roles at top organizations. It’s sometimes difficult to get your foot in the door of the best companies as a full-time employee, since an employment contract comes with serious commitments; bad hires can be very expensive. When you are applying for a full-time job without any experience, you’re likely to be seen as even more “risky”. However, internships are a lower risk to the organization so they are a lot more likely to be interested in giving you a shot! Internships give you valuable experience and the chance to learn new skills, as well as apply the skills you’ve learned already in a real-life business setting. You’ll also make valuable connections in your industry, and the internship may even lead to full-time work.
This year many people’s summer internships were canceled due to the pandemic. However, there is a silver lining. There have been drives to get organizations to offer remote internships, opening doors for you to find internships in different locations around the country and the world.
Other Experience-Building Projects
You might be past the days of being an intern, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue a similar experience. At Roadmap Talent, even if you aren’t a student or recent grad, we do our best to give our skilled but experience-limited technology talent with access to projects for organizations in our network.
Your Own Projects & Collaborations
In many ways, you can simulate experience that many companies would want from you by designing your own projects. Perhaps you want to be a web designer – you can start by building a portfolio of websites for fictitious companies. Or if you are an app developer, you can show off your skills by designing and building an app all the way through to production, and even have it eventually generate revenue in an app store. It’s also worth exploring collaborations with people with skills that are different but complementary to your projects. While you are developing an app, for example, you could have a UI/UX specialist help you out with the design. Seeking experience in digital marketing? Offer to help out with the marketing of a friend’s product. The possibilities are endless and with a little creativity, you can poise yourself to build the experience you need in order to pursue your dream job.
Alternatively…don’t wait for your dream job – create it.
Feeling a little entrepreneurial? Sometimes your dream role doesn’t necessarily involve working for someone else. If you have a great venture idea that you believe in, see if you can actually pursue it and eventually focus on the area that you are most interested in. And if things don’t work out, you would have had valuable working experience that could also make you marketable for your next career move.